The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde includes more than 30 tribes and bands from western Oregon, northern California and southwest Washington. Since time immemorial, tribal people have relied on these traditional landscapes, including the Willamette Falls area, for their livelihood. The fish and game were once plentiful, and what the lands didn’t provide, the people acquired by trade.
This way of life changed with western expansion. Ratified and unratified treaties between the Tribes and the United States Government from 1853 through 1855 resulted in the forced removal of tribal members from their ancestral homelands. Despite this removal, tribal members maintained their connection to their homelands and areas such as Willamette Falls and Table Rocks.
Oregon Trail of Tears
In the winter of 1856, the federal government began the forced removal of the Umpqua, Southern Kalapuya, Rogue River and Chasta peoples to what would become a 61,000-acre reservation in Oregon’s Coast Range. This “trail of tears” marched hundreds of native people over 200 miles north across rough terrain during harsh winter conditions. Many did not survive the journey. Similar forced marches also befell the people of the Willamette Valley, neighboring peoples from throughout western Oregon and those along the Columbia River.
The Grand Ronde Reservation
The Grand Ronde Reservation was established by Executive Order on June 30, 1857. Originally 61,000 acres, it was located on the headwaters of the South Yamhill River in the Oregon Coast Range. Federal actions in the late 1800s quickly decreased the Grand Ronde Reservation land base.
The General Allotment Act of 1887 was designed to transition tribal members into farmers. Under this act, the government divided the Grand Ronde Reservation into 270 allotments for individual tribal members, totaling slightly more than 33,000 acres. This act also allowed tribal allotment lands to go from federal trust status to private ownership after 25 years. This resulted in major portions of the Reservation being lost to non-Native ownership. Then, in 1901, U.S. Inspector James McLaughlin declared a 25,791-acre tract of the Grand Ronde Reservation “surplus” and the U.S. sold those “surplus” lands for $1.16 per acre.
Termination and Restoration of the Grand Ronde
The Grand Ronde Tribe’s federal recognition ended on August 13, 1954, when Congress passed the Western Oregon Termination Act. This legislation stripped the Tribe of its federal status and severed the trust relationship with the federal government. Between 1954 and 1983, Grand Ronde tribal members were a landless people in their own land. The termination policy robbed the Tribe of its social, economic and political fabric, leaving a scattered population and poverty.
In spite of this, Grand Ronde remained a community interconnected by families. Tribal leaders began working in the early 1970s to restore the Tribe’s federal status. They began the arduous task of reestablishing the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. They raised money to lobby Congress, testified before lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and fought for the Tribe’s recognition.
Their hard work and dedication were realized on November 22, 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed the Grand Ronde Restoration Act. Five years later, the Tribe regained 9,811 acres of the original reservation when the Grand Ronde Reservation Act was signed on September 9, 1988. These lands lie just north of the community of Grand Ronde.
After restoration and the re-establishment of the Grand Ronde Reservation were completed, the Tribe focused on rebuilding its institutions and developing programs to meet the needs of its members.
Find out more about today’s Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.